Mansfield Town boss Paul Cox expects to get a new striker to sign on the dotted line today or tomorrow – and has called on players and fans to embrace life in the Football League and not fear it.
Cox is also happy for his side to be underdogs and tipped for an immediate relegation from certain quarters as the players and 1,400 fans head for the opener at Scunthorpe United on Saturday.
The manager has worked tirelessly in recent weeks to find a new front man and this morning said: “I am 100 per cent certain there will be be one in the squad for Saturday, and I’d like to think maybe two. They may be coming in a bit late in the day to start them.
“That’s all I can say at the minute until the paperwork is signed and forwarded. You have to be very very careful as there are a lot of other clubs involved.
“There may also be one or two moving on to pastures new.
“After Matt Green some people seem to be waiting for a marquee signing. But I don’t really know what one is. We are Mansfield Town and can’t realistically afford one.
“The thing to do is to look around for players like Matt Green who are hungry and want to put themselves on the map.”
With pre-season finally over, Cox now can’t wait for his first game in the League.
He said: “It’s the same every season for players, managers and supporters, everyone gets this tingle in their belly and just want to get the first game out of the way. It’s a mixture of emotions, but all positive.
“Everyone is looking forward to the Football League. It is an experience I personally want to embrace and hope to remember for all the right reasons.
“We are underdogs. You can’t get away from the fact. I don’t think many people give us a chance – but that’s football. I can’t change people’s opinions.
“I am not really too concerned if people think we are promotion contenders or relegation fodder. We now need to prove to ourselves that we are capable and hungry for more success.
“This has to be a learning curve. We are coming up from a non-League environment and we have to look what we are up against and adjust accordingly. But, as far as I am concerned, it is a simplistic game. All you’ve go to do is put the ball in the goal more than the other team and, if you do that, you will win more than you lose.
“But I don’t want to make excuses about us going up and be fearful. We have 46 League games plus cup games and we will try to win as many as we can.”
He added: “Our job is to try to win football matches and these boys have hunger and desire. It is the first taste of the League for some of them and I want then to go and grab it.
“You can talk about League football and put anxiety and doubt in people’s minds. It is still a football match and the best environment in the world in which to work – being paid to play football.
“We have kept the nucleus of the squad and the quality of the Conference last season was excellent.
“I know we will have some bad times. But, it’s how you come out of those sticky patches and come through the downs.
“We want to prove a few people wrong. I know a few people have got us down for being down there.”
However, he warned: “We mustn’t run before we can walk. When I came here I gave myself a three-year plan to get out of the Conference. But we made the play-offs in the first year and then won the league in the second year.
“We mustn’t get beyond ourselves too quickly. This is a new chapter for the club and we must make sure the foundations are there and that we are all moving in the right direction. This will be a tough year.
“I hope our supporters stick by us. You look at the number of season tickets we have sold and the number of seats we’ve sold at Scunthorpe and you see we are heading in the right direction and see the tremendous potential of this club.
“No one gives us a hope in hell – but you never know!
“If we all stick together as a football club we can be a potent force. It’s when the bickering and we start getting on each other backs that it divides.”
The first game of the campaign on Saturday pits Mansfield away to a very experienced Scunthorpe, who are looking to bounce back to League One at the first attempt after their relegation in May.
“Scunthorpe have a very good manager, very experienced, and some very good players,” said Cox.
“It will be a very tough game - but there are another 45 tough ones after it in this division.
“It’s well documented our starts here have been very poor and that’s something we need to rectify as a football club.
“I don’t want us to be in awe of anyone in this division. In some of our pre-season games, especially in the first half, we have sat off teams and admired them. I don’t think we are very good when we are in that mood.”
Martin Riley is nursing a dead leg and one or two other players have bumps and bruises. But Cox expects to have a full squad to choose from.